In today’s podcast I’m going to answer all your burning questions about weight gain and hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery including:
- How much weight do I need to gain to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea
- At what low BMI/weight does your period stop?
- Can you have hypothalamic amenorrhea but not be underweight?
- Am I underweight if I’ve lost my period?
- Do you have to weigh a certain amount for your period to start and recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea?
- Do I have to overshoot my previous weight to regain my period?
- Can hypothalamic amenorrhea cause weight gain?
- Will I keep gaining weight even after my period has returned?
- Should I keep a track of my weight?
Hi everyone, welcome back to Holistic Health Radio. I’m your host, Sarah-Liz King. I’m an exercise physiologist and health coach empowering you to find your healthy balance with food, fitness and your body. Through my one-to-one and group coaching programs, both myself and my team help women regain their periods, find food freedom and have a healthier relationship with exercise all while gaining body confidence.
This episode is proudly supported by my upcoming group program, Healing Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, an eight week hybrid group and one to one coaching program with supportive materials, hormone nourishing recipes, recovery friendly workouts and workbooks designed to help you recover your period while working on healing your relationship with food, exercise, and your body. The
enrollment for the next round is now open and the course commences on Monday, October 16th, running for eight weeks and is available to participants worldwide. Now, if you are someone who is listening to this potentially after October 16th, do not stress, we run this course multiple times during the year. So just keep your eyes peeled on our page to see when the next round is open. If you’re
currently listening to this and considering signing up, you can click the link in the show notes or head to www.saralizzking.com forward slash healing hyphen H-A for all the details and to secure your spot. Now today on the podcast, I am answering all your burning questions about weight gain, including how much weight do I actually need to gain to…
recover my period from HA and so much more. So let’s start with that very first point. How much weight do I need to gain to heal from hypothalamic amenorrhea? And do I need to gain weight at all to recover my period is something that I am also going to answer. So this varies greatly from person to person and depends.
mostly on your genetics and where your body feels most safe. And when people ask me, you know, will I have to gain weight or how much weight will I have to gain to recover my period? My answer is I wish I knew. I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you exactly how much weight that you are going to gain or going to need to gain to recover your period, but I’m just not able to do that.
Some people don’t have to gain, I guess, that much weight at all, while others have to gain significantly more weight. It’s also really important to note that some people never lose their periods, even at a very low weight. And again, this is mostly due to genetics, which is why I like to reinforce the fact that, you know,
Being physically nourished enough for your body to get a period doesn’t mean you’re at a place where you’re mentally recovered. You can have a very strained relationship with food and exercise and your body and still be in a place where your periods are regular, semi-regular, and still need to seek help to feel like you’re in a good place in achieving food freedom, flexibility with exercise, and positive body image. So…
that is just something to work on and to keep in mind is even when you do get regular periods back, even maybe when you have physically weight restored to where your body feels safe enough to have a period, it doesn’t always signify that you’re fully healed mentally and in your relationships with food and exercise. So let’s try and get into a little bit more of the specifics around, I guess, what you should be aiming for.
Now, the next question I kind of want to answer is at what BMI or weight or body composition do periods actually stop? And kind of a healthy, I guess, body fat percentage for most females is somewhere in the like low 20s to high, well low 30s kind of range. So about 20 to 30% body fat is healthy for most females.
And dropping below that can often mean that we lose our periods. Now, BMI is a really tricky one because it’s very, it’s a very crude measure of our weight and it doesn’t take into account our body composition. So someone who has a higher BMI, but maybe they hold a lot of muscle mass, might lose their periods at a heavier weight than others.
because they are at a low body fat percentage or simply that low energy availability state that they’re in just means that their body feels unsafe and doesn’t deem reproduction to be something that their body needs to focus on. So it is very hard to say like at X weight, you know, all periods stop because we see such a varied response across.
so many different individuals. Now, the next kind of question is, well, okay, if there’s no actual specific number where periods stop, what range do periods start back at? Like what BMI should I be aiming for and how much weight should I be, I guess, adding to make sure that my body feels safe enough to have a period?
Now again, if we look to the book, No Period, Now What by Nicola Rinaldi, she talks about this concept of the fertile BMI zone being between like 22 to 23. And I say 22 to 23 plus, right? So obviously this is taking into account if you have a larger muscle mass, your BMI is probably going to need to be higher.
And also you can lose your period at a higher BMI as well. So this is more for people who might be, I guess on the lower BMI side of things, having some kind of general idea of where to be aiming for in that physical weight restoration, renourishment process. And I think the other thing to note is like, how much do BMI, how much like does BMI change?
from people who have recovered their period to people that haven’t recovered their period. And that was a really interesting thing that is in the book, No Period, Now What. And often people who have recovered their period have a bigger change in their BMI compared to those that hadn’t. So there were a few different studies that they went to look at, and then also Nicola had a big survey and a whole bunch of respondents reply to that to give…
their experiences and it was often that people who had recovered their period had a bigger BMI change, so somewhere in the range of like 2 to 2.5, whereas people that hadn’t recovered their period had a much smaller change, so kind of like around 1.3 to 1.5. So this is kind of giving you a guideline to say that sometimes we do need to re-nourish our bodies even if we don’t feel like we’re quote-unquote underweight.
for our body to feel safe enough to have a period. Which brings me to my next question, which is can you have HA but not be underweight? Or am I underweight if I’ve lost my period? Now to the first question, can you have HA but not be underweight? The answer is yes, there are plenty of people that have a normal BMI, but remember that this is something that is caused by your body being in a low energy state.
Is my audio still recording?
There’s no lines that come up on it. I can tell you, keep going. Okay.
I’m not speaking loud enough. Just put a marker in front of you to make that easy to find. So it can click in front of your face too. Yeah, just maybe hit that and then you’re back into it. So you can start that up.
The next question I’m going to answer is, can you have HA but not be underweight? Or am I underweight if I’ve lost my period? Now to answer the first question, can I have HA but not be underweight? The answer is yes. That is because hyperthymic amenorrhea isn’t just due to weight changes. It is due to low energy availability and too much stress, which can happen to a person of any body size.
And the second question is, am I underweight if I’ve lost my period? Now, it’s hard to answer this one because you might be under your body’s ideal weight, but that might not be classified as quote unquote, underweight if we look to something like the BMI scale. For most people who are on a recovery journey, they do have to gain some weight. So I usually say that you’re probably under your body’s preferred weight.
for optimal functioning, right? And I wish, again, I could have a crystal ball to tell you what that is, but it is trusting that your body knows best because genetically we are kind of predetermined or our bodies are predetermined to know where they feel best. And it’s just trusting in the process that if you keep eating enough, allowing your body to rest, managing your stress, that it will get to that set point range. And you won’t have to ever micromanage your weight ever again.
Now, the next question I get in my DMs all the time is do I have to overshoot my previous weight to regain my period? Now, this is particularly common for people who go, well, when I was getting my period at X age, I was X number of pounds or kilos. Now, to that I always say, okay, well, how old were you?
and how many years have you had a missing period? Because if you’re comparing yourself now, and maybe it’s 10 years ago that you had a normal natural period, but you were a teenager, it’s highly unlikely that same weight is gonna be the weight that you need to be at for your periods to start later in life. We are naturally meant to gain a little bit of body fat as we age, and that can actually be helpful in making sure that we have enough estrogen for our…
body to start a menstrual cycle again. So it’s hard to say, do you need to overshoot? For some people, they definitely do. And I guess the big question around weight and this whole discussion is, you know, if you are having a fear of weight gain, if that is something that’s really holding you back from making significant changes, then it’s really not worthwhile kind of.
listening to this podcast and just like using it as reassurance. You need to really figure out okay well why is the fear of weight gain so significant for me? What is it about weight gain or the beliefs around weight gain that make me feel really fearful and worried? What does extra weight mean about me as a person or what do I think it means about me as a person?
there’s a lot of unlearning that has to go alongside the fact that you’re going to physically have to re-nourish your body and kind of release the control that you used to have around micromanaging your body weight shape and size and that is hard emotional work but it is the work that is incredibly necessary for you to make these changes to allow your body to be as it needs to recover your period.
The last question I guess I want to answer off the back of the overshoot question is will I keep gaining weight even after my period has returned? Now your period may return at an optimal weight for your body or you may still need to keep gaining weight even after that first period. I often say your first period isn’t the indicator that your fully weight restored. We need to see those periods become
regular, we need to make sure that they are like a healthy flow and length and that can give us a better indication that we have that good monthly report card that says our body is feeling good, it’s feeling safe and everything is functioning as it needs to be. I usually see a lot of people kind of stumble after that first recovery period because they say to themselves, I don’t need to make any further changes, I don’t need to eat anymore, I don’t need to be like mindful about my exercise anymore.
and they throw themselves in the deep end and go back to all of their old behaviors or even kind of maybe even sneakily go back to some without even recognizing it. And they really kind of stunt their recovery journey because they don’t get that second period or they only get it 60 plus days later, which is giving us a really kind of big bells and whistles red flag warning sign that actually you probably had a lot more work to do.
and you stop that work too soon. You kind of went, okay, I’m all good now, I just need to go back to what I was doing before, my body’s resilient enough to keep that period. Your body’s very sensitive in those first few months of getting your cycle back, and sometimes it needs more encouragement, and sometimes that encouragement comes in the form of making sure that your body’s at its preferred level of body fat, its preferred weight to function optimally, and we can only sense that
through how regular your cycles are, but also other things, how you’re feeling mentally, how you’re feeling physically, what your concentration levels are like, how good your relationship with food is. There are so many different factors to think about. Now, whether you have to overshoot or whether you get your body, your periods back at a lower weight, remember your period is only one factor in this whole journey. The whole point of
healing your periods and getting them back is also to make sure you have a very healthy relationship with food, a very flexible relationship with exercise, and you’re actually at a place where you can embrace your body as it needs to be and as it is. And if you’re still struggling with that, know that it’s completely valid to still get help and support and assistance for all of those things, irregardless of how regular your cycles are.
So hopefully this provided some clarification around the importance of weight and weight gain for period recovery. If you know that your fear of weight gain is really getting in the way of you making consistent changes and staying consistent with those changes, then consider getting help and support. Our Healing HA program is the best place.
to get that because we will not only give you the guidance and support in that one-to-one setting, you’ll also have people who are going through the same experience with you, so you feel so much less alone, and I think that’s the beauty of joining a group program. But again, I will leave it there today. If you really enjoyed this episode, be sure to give it a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you are watching on YouTube, be sure to give it a thumbs up and subscribe so you never miss an episode.
And I will be back next week with a fresh new episode that you can wrap your ears around. So keep looking after yourself until then.
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